If you’re in the market for a Wrangler JL or Gladiator JT and will be spending appreciable time out on the trail, it’s important to consider the off-road capabilities of each model. No matter what configuration or trim level you choose, your Jeep will already have way more off-road capability than virtually any other vehicle on the road. However, for those who want to tackle the toughest terrain, having superior approach, breakover, and departure angles can be crucial when you’re on the trail.
Ground clearance is important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Your approach angle and departure angle respectively let you know your ability to safely avoid hitting the front and rear of your vehicle on an obstacle. Your breakover angle is similar, but for the lowest part of your 4x4’s underbody. Approach and departure angles are both important when trying to traverse obstacles like boulders, but how they help with other obstacles differs. Approach angles determine what the steepest hill you can climb is, while the departure angle will determine if you can descend that hill. Breakover angle is important for clearing obstacles and affects your vehicle’s ability to avoid scraping its underbelly along the terrain.
Although comparing the Wrangler JL and Gladiator shows how similar the two models are in many regards, the noticeably longer wheelbase of the Gladiator pickup makes it slightly less suitable for off-roading. A longer wheelbase will decrease the breakover angle of a vehicle, limiting the obstacles it can drive over and the hills it can crest. Despite this, the versatility of having a bed still makes pickup trucks a popular choice for mudding and off-roading, even in four-door configuration.
Make no mistake, the Gladiator will still perform better on the trail than virtually any other vehicle on the road, especially when it’s outfitted in the Rubicon trim. But for absolute rock-crawling capability, it’s clear that the Wrangler, specifically the 2-door and specifically the Rubicon trim, will be second to none. However, it’s worth noting that the Gladiator does have a very small advantage in terms of ground clearance, offering an additional 0.3 inches compared to the respective Wrangler trims.
For the Gladiator, comparing the Rubicon and Overland trims shows similar results to comparing the Wrangler’s Rubicon and Sahara trims. You lose some ground clearance and see slightly worse clearance angles, but the differences are not as drastic as those between the 2-door vs 4-door Wrangler vs Gladiator. If you want the more luxury-oriented features of the Wrangler Sahara or Gladiator Overland, it’s easier to later upgrade your off-road capability with aftermarket modifications.
If you want to improve the clearance angles of your Jeep from the stock numbers, you can look at adding a lift kit. A stubby bumper is another great way to potentially increase your approach angle.
Check out our infographic below to see the stock off-road clearance angles for the various configurations of the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator.
[click the infographic below]
Sources: Jeep Wrangler Specs, Jeep | Jeep Gladiator Specs, Jeep| Off-Roading 101: What Are Approach and Departure Angles?, AutoGuide
Image Credit: Jeep